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Oct. 6, 2011

Volleyball Notes 10/6/11 Get Acrobat Reader

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina volleyball team returns home looking for better fortunes as defending SEC West champion LSU and fellow West member Arkansas come to the Volleyball Competition Facility for matches this weekend. The Tigers and Gamecocks square off on Friday night at 7 p.m., while the Razorbacks come to town for a Sunday afternoon showdown at 1:30 p.m. Both matches will have Gametracker live stats and a free video stream at

Weekend Promotions
vs. LSU – 7 p.m.

– Life Night: Group admission for church groups
– Free Gamecock bandanas for the first 100 fans
– Alumni Weekend
– Facebook Friday- Show a coupon from the Volleyball fan page for a prize

vs. Arkansas – 1:30 p.m.
– Gamecock Club Day- High-five tunnel for members
– Girl Scouts Day – Banner competition and post-match Q & A with the Gamecocks
– Alumni Weekend
– Post-match autographs
– Twitterific Sunday- Mention @ GamecockVolley on gameday for a prize

Honoring Past on Alumni Weekend
Representatives from the past four decades of Gamecock Volleyball return to campus for Alumni Weekend. Former greats like Shonda Cole, Alexis Homer Glover, Cindy Robarge Esposito and more are among the players who have committed, while the program’s winningest head coach Kim Hudson Williams will also be a part of the festivities.

700 And Counting
In the 39th year of sponsoring volleyball, South Carolina has been to seven NCAA Tournament and posted 17 20-win seasons in history. On Sat., Sept. 10, the Gamecocks tallied the 700th win in program history, dispatching College of Charleston in five for the win. Not content there, the Gamecocks started the climb to 800 with a sweep of Winthrop. South Carolina is the sixth team in the SEC to compile 700 wins in program history, following Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU and Tennessee.

The Improvement Is Easy to See
South Carolina has already surpassed its win total from 2010 before starting SEC play. To put that in perspective, the Gamecocks did not win their seventh match of 2010 until the 27th match last season on Nov. 13, 79 days into the season. They did not win their first match of the year until Sept. 10, which was the third weekend of play. The 2011 edition won its first seven matches inside the first eight days of the schedule.

Once Again, South Carolina Among the Youngest
After tying for the nation’s lead with nine freshmen on the roster last year, the Gamecocks are still among one of the youngest teams in the country. According to data compiled by Brian Wolff at Buffalo, the 12 underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) rank eighth in the country in number. By percentage of roster members, the Gamecocks’ 75 percent mark stands sixth in the country. A pair of historically-strong programs also make the list, with Penn State and Hawaii also making the top 10 in both.

South Carolina Among Nation’s Best
Halfway into the season, the Gamecocks are among the nation’s top 50 in four stat categories. The highest ranking comes in digs, where the squad’s 17.57 average ranks 17th. Offensively, South Carolina is 39th in assists (12.89) and in kills (13.81) and 47th in hitting (.244). The full stats breakdown for the Gamecocks come on page seven of the notes.

Carolina Relying on Rookies Early in 2011
South Carolina is a young team, as you likely read above. Two freshmen outside hitters, Hanna Forst and Bethanie Thomas, have filled starting roles most of the season. Thomas stands second on the team with her 2.35 kills average and third with a 2.98 digs average. Forst ranks fifth on the team in kills per set (1.91) and digs per set (2.02).

Top 50 in Gamecock History
A pair of Gamecocks moved into the top 50 on South Carolina’s all-time lists in 2011. Senior Teresa Stenlund now stands 50th in kills (384) and 49th in attack attempts (979) for her career, while sophomore Juliette Thévenin moved into the top 50 in digs, where she’s currently 47th with 396. Thévenin also ranks in the top 50 in kills (531, 36th), attacks (1,423, 36th) and points (599.0, 46th) while Stenlund is in the top 40 in blocks solo (28, T-28th), block assists (127, T-37th) and total blocks (155, 36th).

Junior setter Taylor Bruns ranks 11th in school history in assists (1,420), passing Petra Lorenzi during the College of Charleston Invitational. She’s now tied for 48th in aces with 49 and 48th in digs with 385 in her career.

A Decade Since This Feat
South Carolina was the last Southeastern Conference team to take a defeat in 2011, matching a feat last done in 2001. That team started 6-0 before falling in their first match of conference play against No. 10 Florida in a five-set thriller. The 2001 season was the middle of a three-season run of NCAA appearances for the Gamecocks. It was also the first year of rally scoring in NCAA volleyball.

Belgian Sensation Picking up Where She Left Off
Juliette Thévenin started 2011 much as she finished 2010, when she earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors and became the fifth freshman since 1983 to lead the Gamecocks in kills, joining Lori Rowe, Cally Plummer, Berna Dwyer and Lynae Vanden Hull with that distinction.

Thévenin earned her first SEC Offensive Player of the Week award after the opening weekend of play when she averaged 4.80 kills and 4.90 digs per match during the Temple Invitational. The sophomore also claimed tourney MVP and most valuable attacker honors at the event. She also gained all-tourney accolades at the College of Charleston Invitational. She currently ranks fourth in the SEC in kills and points and seventh in digs.

Stenlund Stands Strong as Lone Senior
The only senior on this year’s squad, Teresa Stenlund is providing a steady presence in the middle. She ranks third on the team in kills (2.19 per set), while she been a larger presence at the net, posting 0.81 blocks per set.

Stenlund has tended to save her best for the home tournament. Last season, Stenlund tied a 27-year-old record with five solo blocks in the three-set affair against Lipscomb during the Gamecock Invitational. During this year’s event, she hit .393 and averaged 1.45 blocks per set, tops on the team.

Frankie’s Not Working in Vain
Sophomore middle blocker Frankie Vain captured Gamecock Invitational All-Tournament Team accolades after hitting .519 in the four matches, posting 2.31 kills per set in the process. The St. Louis product also tied classmate Paige Wheeler with four aces in the event, tops on the team. She tied her career best with 10 kills against Gardner-Webb to start the event before posting back-to-back .538 hitting marks against Davidson and Elon.

On the year, Vain leads the team and ranks fourth in the SEC with a .341 hitting percentage.

Thomas Standing Tall
Freshman outside hitter Bethanie Thomas impressed the Gamecock coaching staff from the first day of practice this fall. They got the early glimpse at what was to come, as the freshman has played in every match and ranks second on the team in kills (2.35 per set) and third in digs (2.98 per set). What may be most impressive is her 258 serve receptions with five errors, by far the best percentage on the team (.981).

The MVP of the Gamecock Invitational, she hit .391 and ranked second on the team in kills and third in digs during the event. Those are the same places she ranks in the team standings as well. Thomas’s best outing came against Elon, where she hit .577 with 16 kills and eight digs. That came on the heels of her posting her first double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs in the sweep of Davidson.

Wheeler Posting Gaudy Numbers
Sophomore Paige Wheeler came into the season fighting to be the one to fill the huge shoes of Hannah Lawing and, before her, Sarah Cline in the libero role. So far, she played well, leading the team and ranking third in the SEC with 4.34 digs per set. The sophomore earned all-tournament team honors at the College of Charleston Invitational, averaging five digs per set during the event. She posted the third 30+ dig contest in the SEC this season with 31 in the win over College of Charleston.

During the second week of play in the Gamecock Invitational, she out-dug the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Week, Kentucky’s Stephanie Klefot. The Wildcats’ back-row specialist totaled 63 digs, a 5.00 average, while Wheeler tallied 67 digs, good for a 5.15 average. The Gamecocks’ top digger, Wheeler tied for third on the four-set match charts with 28 digs in the Elon win. Also, she landed four aces during the Gamecock Invitational.

Taylor Bruns Guides Offense in Impressive Start
Junior setter Taylor Bruns twice earned all-tournament team accolades in 2011, leading the fourth-most efficient attack in the SEC and the 47th in the nation at .244. In the top 50 in NCAA Division I in kills and assists, Bruns is sixth in the SEC and 100th in the country in assists (10.02). During the Gamecock Invitational, the squad posted a .325 mark, while Bruns recorded 18 kills in 13 sets and hit .556 while also landing a pair of aces.

Top Liberos Face Each Other on Friday
The second and third-ranked liberos in digs per set face each other in Friday night’s match. LSU’s Meghan Mannari stands second in the league, just ahead of Paige Wheeler, who is third in the rankings with a 4.34 average. Manneri does have an edge serving, posting 0.43 aces per set.

Scouting LSU
The defending SEC Western Division champion Tigers enter Friday’s outing with a 10-5 overall record and a 3-2 mark in the league, standing atop their division. The Tigers have been one of the top defensive teams in the league, holding their foes to an SEC-best .150 hitting percentage. The Tigers check in just behind the Gamecocks in both kills (13.57) and assists (12.48), ranking fourth in both in the SEC. They stand fifth with a .240 hitting percentage. The Tigers serve very tough, averaging 1.62 aces per set.

LSU is led by the hitting duo of Desiree Elliott (3.50 kills per set) and Madie Jones (3.38 kills per set), who stand fifth and eighth in the SEC rankings in kills, respectively. They are joined in the top 10 in the league in points by Michelle Williams, who averages 2.86 kills and 1.18 blocks per set. That last mark is second best in the SEC. Helping the Tigers’ serving game are defensive specialists Meghan Manneri (0.43 aces per set) and Lauren Waclawczyk (0.30 aces per set). Mannari ranks second in the league with 4.40 digs per set. Malorie Pardo guides the offense, dishing out 11.57 assists per set.

Series History vs. the Tigers
LSU holds a 16-12 advantage in the series that began when the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1991. In Columbia, the Gamecocks have gone 6-7 against the Tigers, winning consecutive meetings in 2007 and 2008. LSU has swept the last two season series.

Reuniting Club Members
Redshirt freshman Cara Howley gets to see two of her former Skyline club members on Friday night, as Tiger juniors Madie Jones and Meghan Manneri also played with the Dallas-area club.

Scouting Arkansas
The Razorbacks bring a 10-6 overall record into the weekend and a 2-3 mark in SEC play. Arkansas has been strong defensively at the net, ranking third in the league with 2.42 blocks per set. That helps the club maintain a third-place ranking in opponent hitting percentage. Another tough-serving squad, the Hogs post 1.34 aces per set, third in the SEC. Arkansas ranks seventh thru ninth in the other stats.

Kelli Stipanovich tops the squad offensively with 3.40 kills per set and 3.87 points per set, both seventh in the SEC stat rankings. Setter Raymariely Santos ranks seventh in the league with 9.57 assists per set, but she executes setter dumps very well, averaging over a kill per set while tallying a .398 hitting percentage. Jasmine Norton ranks second on the team with 2.84 kills per set. Janeliss Torres fronts the block, posting 0.98 blocks per set. Christa Alvarez averages 3.29 digs per frame.

Series History vs. the Razorbacks
The 1992 additions to the SEC have faced off 27 times previously, with the Razorbacks claiming 18 of those. In the meetings in Columbia, South Carolina has gone 5-7. Arkansas has won the last four meetings overall, including two four-set wins in Columbia in both 2009 and 2010.

Reuniting Club Members . . . Part Two
A pair of Gamecocks get to see former club teammates on Sunday. Junior Taylor Bruns can reunite with Kasey Heckelman, a transfer from Louisville in her first season playing for the Razorbacks, as both were a part of the Illini Elite club. And sophomore Frankie Vain can reunite with Kelli Stipanovich, who played in the same St. Louis CYC club previously.

Single-Match Superlatives
South Carolina’s players have posted outstanding individual efforts this fall, with many registering on the single-match charts for the Gamecocks. Sophomore Juliette Thévenin registered on two lists during the team’s season-opening win over Montana. Her 21 kills and 50 attacks both tied for fourth on the three-set match list.

During the Gamecock Invitational, freshman Bethanie Thomas’s .577 hitting percentage against Elon became the fifth-best performance on the four-set match list. And sophomore Paige Wheeler tallied 28 digs against the Phoenix, tied for third on that list.